Analyzing King Midas In Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'

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William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania, cleverly quipped, “if you think twice before speaking once, you will speak twice the better for it”. Penn’s statement echoes a lesson expressed by the Roman poet Ovid hundreds of years earlier. Ovid uses the story of King Midas in Metamorphoses as a canvas to express his belief that people should think carefully before they act, in order to prevent their worst qualities from coming to light. The story begins with Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, granting Midas a wish. The king had been a gracious host to Silenus, one of Bacchus’ devout followers, and Bacchus wants to repay him for his hospitality. Midas asks Bacchus for the alchemistic power of turning everything he touches to gold, and Bacchus…show more content…
Midas could have chosen not to voice his opinion, yet decides to critique Apollo’s music. As before, Ovid punishes Midas in order to emphasize his point. The whispering reeds Ovid introduces are a clever mechanism for reminding people of the mistakes Midas made, and to think before they act. Ovid uses rhymes in the second story as well to accentuate Midas’ indiscretion. When describing how Midas opposes Apollo’s victory, Ovid writes, “The sacred mountain’s judgement and award [line break] pleased all who heard;” (p. 254, line 176-177). To describe his amercement, the poet composes, “In that one punishment; he wears [line break] henceforth a little ambling ass’s ears.” (p.254, line 183-184). Continuing its purpose from the first story, Ovid’s use of rhyme emphasizes that the poet is acting contrastingly from the king. Yet again, Ovid reveals the ending of the second story before it actually begins. “But crass his wits remained, in folly set [line break] to bring their master trouble as before” (p. 253, line 148). Interestingly, while talking about Midas’ wit in both stories, Ovid only uses the word “crass”. To be crass means to lack sensitivity, which perfectly captures the essence of Midas’

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